Thursday, September 17, 2009

Unaffiliated: Why I'm not an affliliate marketer (and probably will never be)

I took some time over the summer to learn about Internet Marketing through something called the Thirty Day Challenge. It was a low-pressure but time-consuming course (offered free in August) that teaches you to make your first dollar on the Internet. I have to admit that I didn't finish the entire course, though I did a good part of it, and I didn't make my first dollar yet.

I learned a lot about Internet marketing, and much of the content is definitely applicable to what I do as a regular marketer. In general, it was also fun.

The two main takeaways I got were: (a) Affiliate Marketing is a real job, not some scam; and (b) Affiliate Marketing is not for me.

Just like any kind of marketing, your job as an affiliate marketer is to get people to know about and buy stuff. I think affiliate marketing is actually a lot tougher than regular marketing, because of the massive competition. The bottom line is that you are selling stuff that is already out there to customers who are probably looking for that stuff, and they could find it through you or through other means. If you aren't totally on it, some other affiliate marketer is going to be on it, and that customer will buy the stuff without your getting a cut. Or if they click through on your site, and then they decide to buy a different model, you don't get a cut.

It's pretty brutal. There are some ways to make good money on affiliate marketing, but you have to know what you are doing and have an advantage over the masses.

But that's not the main reason I don't really connect with the idea of affiliate marketing. The main reason I don't connect is because it doesn't appear to me as something adding real value to the world. Again, no offense if you are in this field and you love it or are doing well at it. But for me, affiliate marketing is fundamentally reallocation rather than creation.

I recently saw an online video of a talk by Umair Haque discussing "perceived value". Perceived value is what we learn about in business school, and it revolves around the idea that if a product is perceived to have value over a competitive product, that is worth money. In other words, you pay more money for a can of Coca-cola than a can of no-name-cola, because you perceive these to have value. Haque says, fundamentally, that perceived value isn't value. In other words, if all you are doing is putting a fancy label on it, you aren't creating anything of value in the world.

I'd go even further and say that a can of cola has no value at all, or negative value, if your health is considered.

Haque actually postulates that businesses that don't add real value will fail. I'm not sure I believe that, though I would certainly like to.

At any rate, when it comes to affiliate marketing, I just don't think that my blogging about the awesomeness of flea jump-ropes and pointing you to the site to buy them is really adding value in the world. You might all value my opinion. You might find it slightly easier to find the right flea jump-rope for you. Probably not. Probably it would have more value on the Amazon review for flea jump-ropes rather than on my blog where I get a percentage for pointing you to Amazon.

I do believe that there are zillions of products that can be created and marketed through the Internet. Creating a new product that answers a real need -- that's where value is. If you can create a better flea jump-rope, because you are the expert on flea jumping, you should create the product, not plug a different product. That is a contribution to the world.

When I was doing the course, one of the guys on my team said "It is everyone's dream to have their own product and sell it through the Internet." He said that as if: we are doing affiliate marketing because creating your own product is harder. He might be right, too. In any case, if that's your dream, that's what you should be doing, not something that appears easy and, at the end of the day, doesn't add real value to anyone.

So that's my take on affiliate marketing .Again, no offense to anyone, and I'd be glad to hear your comments below.


duvide-frank said...

I am trying to market our own products and I can't imagine after doing this to do affiliate marketing either. It just needs too much spamming and I also don't like the idea that you are not adding anything of value.
I found your article over google alerts set for "jump ropes". So if these key words pop up I go and check out the website and if I think I have something to add of value and bringing our ropes into play and I might post a short note, like here, referring to our duvide Jumpropes website. We manufacture real jump ropes and we also offer a lot of skipping techniques as video loops and workouts for free. You don't need to buy anything, just remember our name for future jump rope needs!
Thank you for letting me post and all referrals from here I will keep and give you a big discount on a jump rope of your likes from our website (so affiliation is not that bad after all :)

Rebecca Rachmany said...

Hi Frank,

I actually have taken up jump rope lately -- would love to get a discount on a great jump rope. Please contact me at!